Every once in a while I’ll see an item in the news about people such as Bill and Melinda Gates giving hundreds of millions of dollars to a charity or cause. I’m blown away by that level of benevolence, but some people react by saying, “Well, I would hope so. They can certainly afford it.”
While it’s true they can afford it, it’s still an incredible expression of generosity from people who are not required to be generous. They and other philanthropic individuals could put all of their money into anything they want for themselves. Instead, they understand how blessed they are and respond by donating huge amounts of money to worthy causes.
Unfortunately, for every Bill and Melinda Gates, there are hundreds of wealthy individuals who could do so much more with their resources. But they choose instead to spend their money on toys or sock it away for their future.
I think we all know that those of us who have been blessed with an ability to make money – whether or not we own our own companies – should cheerfully give some of that money and/or our time to charitable causes. It’s a wonderful thing to do and probably does as much for the giver as it does for the receiver.
So, the question becomes, if your business provides funds or other resources to charitable causes, should you publicize those gifts in press releases, advertisements, company newsletters or other communications?
One school of thought is no, that’s not an appropriate thing to do because it makes it appear that generating positive publicity for your company is the only reason you’re making this gesture. It comes off as patting yourself on the back. “Look at us. We’re a company that cares for the poor and here’s what we just did for them.”
The other viewpoint is yes, it’s perfectly appropriate to publicize a company’s charitable gift because it not only brings awareness to the cause, but also makes other businesses and individuals start thinking about what they could be doing to help the less fortunate.
I subscribe to the latter thesis, with two caveats. One, the announcement of your donation should be tastefully done and be designed to bring more attention to the cause than it does to your company.
Two – and this is something to sort out in your head before making your announcement – make sure your motive is pure. If you can honestly say the number one reason for your charitable gift is because it’s the right thing to do, then I think you’re good to go. I believe it’s perfectly fine to get some ink for your company’s charitable gesture, as long as you know that it’s a secondary benefit behind what you’re doing.
Charitable donations also seem to resonate better with people when there is a logical connection between what your company does and who is benefitting from your gift.
Our company makes a variety of charitable donations during the course of the year. Because we specialize in products that help people become more independent and self-reliant, we tend to donate emergency food to those who have been negatively affected by extreme weather events.
But we also make regular monetary donations to organizations benefitting U.S. soldiers and their families, such as the Wounded Warrior Project, Operation Homefront and A Soldier’s Child Foundation, because our customers have told us they like to see a portion of their funds going to those types of organizations.
Regardless of who benefits from your philanthropic efforts, don’t hesitate to make them known. The more exposure charitable giving receives, the more that individuals and businesses will think about what they can do in this important arena of life.
Allen Baler is a leading entrepreneur and Harvard grad. Allen Baler is a Partner in 4Patriots LLC, based in Nashville.
Disclaimer: This blog post is not a substitute for the sound advice of a business professional with expertise in the subject matter discussed. Please seek appropriate counsel on what strategies make sense for your business.